On Monday, my youngest daughter said to me: “Sometimes I do things you specifically told me not to.”
She was being cute with a sly smile on her face. I reacted with a funny explosive motion and a touch of sarcasm: “Shocking! I had no idea!”
“Only sometimes?” I thought to myself.
I want to tell you this is a phase, but the truth is this is her personality. She sees “no” as a personal challenge meant to be destroyed, never to be heard from again. It’s not that she’s always in trouble. Far from it. She sees the world in shades of gray rather than black and white. She sees opportunities where the rest of us see an end. And she simply needs more support navigating those boundaries and accepting when no really is no.
I am parenting a strong-willed child. It’s a different experience from my eldest who thrives on rules and structure while her sister is setting off proverbial bombs in the background. Navigating the juxtaposition of the two has not been easy. But if anything good came out of the pandemic, it has been learning to meet them where they both are.
Here are my Dos and Don’ts if you find yourself with a child you might lovingly describe as “spirited”:
- Do take a deep breath and give yourself (and them!) some grace.
- Do switch rules with choices (when possible!) No one likes being told what to do. Give your child plenty of opportunities to make their own decisions. For example, I never fight with my kids about wearing jackets. I might insist they bring it, but I always let them decide for themselves that they’re cold.
- Do set limits with routines. Predictability equals trust which may encourage cooperation.
- Do listen to your child and empathize, even when you don’t understand. A strong-willed child is not just giving you a hard time about nothing. These are kids with expectations; if you look at it from their perspective you may see they are justifiably upset – even if you still think it’s a touch ridiculous because the green plate is still a plate even if it isn’t red and it absolutely does not matter what color plate your meal is served on. But I digress.
- Don’t accept every invitation to have an argument. Sometimes being the parent is knowing when to simply not engage, and not necessarily “win.” Hint: this is also a good lesson for your strong-willed child to learn.
- Do approach everything with a sense of humor. Our best lessons are learned with laughter.
My strong-willed child is never going to be obedient. And that is more than ok with me. She teaches us all to be more flexible, to be fearless. She is someone who will always do the right thing, no matter what she’s told. She is sensitive, has an imagination I envy, and a genuine smile that lights up a room. My job as her mom is to nurture who she is, wild and whimsical.
Something I tell all of my newborn clients is, if they have a toddler they are boss for the day. I learned those lessons through
surviving parenting my own. I always try to follow their lead and meet them where they are. Bringing a new baby home is a lot of change! I had a blast getting to know this sweet family. Now that it’s getting warmer, we were able to do photos inside and out for extra variety. Looking for a Fairfax VA newborn photographer? I’d love to hear from you!